Reflections on the SPJ Code of Ethics
As a receiver of information, a reader of newspapers, a browser of magazines, a participant in social media platforms, a subscriber on YouTube, Rumble, Substack (and other platforms), a listener of radio shows and an all-around consumer of media … what does honesty look like to you?
Isn’t it strange that we should spend so much of our time focused on “misinformation, disinformation, false information, and fake news,” while investing so little of our time defining and creating what we actually want? Focusing on things to be avoided is only so effective. Indeed, many parents learn the value of replacing “Don’t fall” with “Keep your balance!”
The Editorial Team of The Vashon Loop has a sacred duty to be as honest in print as is humanly possible. Some ways to go about this are offered in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, under the category: “Seek Truth and Report It.” Per SPJ, “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information.”
What does that look like? For us, honest and courageous encompasses the following: humility, personal integrity, a willingness to learn uncomfortable information, and a sincere sensation of joy when one discovers evidence adequate to changing one’s mind.
The SPJ’s Code of Ethics presents 18 specific guidelines on this topic. Here are just a few of the guiding lights of wisdom and responsibility that illuminate our way forward each month.
- Take responsibility for the accuracy of our work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
- Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
- Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing, or summarizing a story.
- Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution, or other harm, and/or who have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
- Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
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